Mace Black, Page 330-335 by Wolfenshire ()
Members remain the original copyright holder in all their materials here at Renderosity. Use of any of their material inconsistent with the terms and conditions set forth is prohibited and is considered an infringement of the copyrights of the respective holders unless specially stated otherwise.
Mace Black, Page 330-335
Saeber and Sern stared at the bridge covered in a slithering mass of Sand Vipers. Kabath wasn’t looking at the bridge, he was looking out across the desert.
“Take a look over there,” said Kabath.
Sern turned his attention to where Kabath was looking. “What is that?
“More Sand Vipers,” said Kabath. “They’re just under the sand and coming this way.”
“Why they come?” asked Saeber.
“My guess is they’re hungry and the bridge is giving off a vibration and attracting them,” replied Kabath. “The firestorm probably killed off most of their natural food source, so they’re coming to look for food.”
“They’re going to infest the jungle on the other side of the portal,” said Sern.
“No, those bridges were made for an invading Sherata army to cross and put down rebel Creator Colonies. There’s a safety feature on the portal to keep the enemy from firing missiles through the portal. If you didn’t come through the portal from the other side, you can’t enter from this side unless someone activates the safety override on the control panel.”
Sern hobbled forward on his crutches a few feet. “We have to close the bridge, if someone were to come through right now they would walk right into a swarm of Sand Vipers.”
Kabath sat down and looked at Sern. “Okay, there’s a control panel next to the portal. Just push the red button and jump off the bridge, it will close. I’ll wait here for you.”
Sern closed one eye and glared at the old tiger. “Fine, I’m not a coward like you.” Sern hobbled forward and got maybe twenty feet before Kabath walked past him. Kabath lifted a paw and gave Sern a shove on his way past. Sern flailed his arms and fell on his backside in the sand.
“I’m not a coward,” growled Kabath.
“Seriously, pushing a cripple down, what kind of person does that?” shouted Sern.
Kabath leaped into a run for the bridge. He dodged, weaved, and jumped over Sand Vipers as he made his way to the bridge; for an old tiger he was nimble. Kabath jumped up on the side wall and ran for the portal. He batted away Sand Vipers as he ran.
He reached the portal and slapped a paw on the control panel. Sern wasn’t sure what he expected, but it wasn’t spectacular as he’d hoped it would be; the bridge was there, and then it wasn’t.
“I thought there would be sparks, or something cool like on television,” said Sern.
Kabath was on the sand now, and so were the Sand Vipers, and they were scattering in every direction. Sern watched as Kabath was forced to run the other direction, there were too many Sand Vipers between him and getting back to Sern and Saeber.
“Oh yeah, run away, just leave us here,” said Sern.
Saeber came and lowered herself to the ground next to him. “Snakes coming…get on Saeber…hurry,” she said. Sern remembered that Batheba had said she would be able to carry him a few miles before tiring, and the Sand Vipers were getting close. He wasn’t going to argue. He climbed on her back and wrapped his arms around her neck. “Hold tight,” she said.
Sern expected another bumpy ride like when riding on Batheba’s back, but Saeber was just the opposite. He gait was even and smooth, and fast, or maybe it was just that she was closer to the ground so it seemed faster.
Saeber ran across the burned out oasis, past the rock pile with the water trickling out of the ground, and off into the desert, away from the swarm of Sand Vipers. Sern could see Kabath off in the distance paralleling their run. The two tigers started to angle towards each other and in another two miles they met up. Saeber was panting heavily when they stopped.
Sern climbed down and went to Kabath and retrieved a water flask. He opened the flask and hopped around to Saeber and held the flask up. Saeber drank deeply, then Sern hopped over to Kabath and held the flask up for him.
Kabath recoiled back. “What are doing? You’re not my rider, back up.”
Saeber stepped in front of Sern and lowered her head. “It not Sern fault, Batheba teach.”
“What did I do wrong?” asked Sern.
Kabath frowned. “Figures. That brain dead pup of mine has been teaching you how they do it in the Sherata Army,” explained Kabath. “That boy hasn’t got a lick of common sense. Look, kid, this isn’t the army, this is real life, and you don’t hold water up for a tiger that isn’t ‘your tiger’. If I want some water, I’ll ask for it, then you put it in a proper bowl and set it down for me.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know, I guess that makes sense,” said Sern.
“And while we’re talking about it, giving a Lesser Sherata a name is enough weird for a lifetime, you shouldn’t be holding a flask up for her also, especially in public,” explained Kabath. “Whatever you two do in private, hey, I won’t judge, but put her water in a proper drinking bowl when people are around.”
Sern turned bright red. Kabath probably didn’t mean it to sound like it did, but it was still embarrassing.
Saeber kept her head down. “Forgive…he not know.”
“Don’t apologize to this loser, he’s just being a jerk,” said Sern.
Kabath looked down at Saeber. “Oh forget it, I’m not going to argue with pups. Come on, let’s go, we’ve got a long walk to find another World Bridge to get home.”
Kabath headed off into the desert without a further word. Sern slung the water flask over his shoulder and picked up the crutches. The sand started getting deeper the further from the village they got. Sern’s crutches kept sinking down into the sand and making it almost impossible to walk.
Within ten minutes he was exhausted and his bad knee was throbbing terribly. “Hold on, I got to rest.”
Saeber lowered herself to the ground next to him. “Sern ride,” she said.
“You can’t carry me long distance,” Sern protested.
“Saeber walk slow,” she said.
Sern took some water and offered Saeber some, then crawled on her back. Saeber did walk slow and did better than he thought she would. The temperature started rising and Sern held his cloak up to give them both some shade while they walked.
The village disappeared behind them in the distance. They didn’t talk and gratefully Kabath had found a path of hard packed sand between the soft dunes to make walking easier. They could no longer see Kabath over the tall dunes of sand, but they followed his footprints. They stopped several times to take a break and drink water. Sern was getting concerned. The water flask was nearly empty and Kabath had all the spare water with him.
The suns were mostly directly overhead now and beating down mercilessly on them. Saeber was walking much slower now. They crested a sand dune and looked down to find Kabath lying under one of several palm trees surrounding a small pond of water.
Sern slipped off Saeber’s back when they reached the small oasis and glared at Kabath. “Thanks for the help,” Sern said sarcastically.
“You’re a big boy, deal with it,” said Kabath.
“Jerk,” said Sern.
Saeber drank from the pond while Sern refilled the water flask. He waited until she was done drinking, so not to muddy the water, then laid down in the water, careful to keep the bandage around his leg out of the water. Saeber joined him and lay next to him.
“You need to pull that bandage off and clean the wound or it’s going to get infected,” said Kabath.
Sern glared, but did as the big tiger suggested. The wound was swollen and red, and had a bit of blood seepage on the bandage. He left the bandage off to let it get some air, then lay back in the water to let the refreshing water cool him.
Saeber moved and Sern opened his eyes. They must have fallen asleep. The suns were lower on the horizon and the temperature had dropped to a reasonable level. Sern looked around for Kabath, but he was gone. There were footprints heading out into the desert.
“Look,” said Saeber. There were three dead animals lying in a pile. Two looked a bit like coyotes, and the third a very large cat looking creature. Next to the dead animals was an emergency ration and another water flask. “It dinner?”
“Yeah, I think so,” said Sern, rising from the pool of water and shaking off. He sat down and pulled the emergency ration open while Saeber went to devouring the raw meat. Sern didn’t have a weak stomach, but didn’t stare either while she ate. She was a tiger, and that was how she ate. He would get used to it.
When they were finished eating Sern scooped some water from the pond and cleaned around her mouth while she purred at the attention. He wrapped the bandage back around the wound, it was looking much better and not as swollen. He slung both flasks over his shoulder and picked up his crutches.
“No, Sern ride,” said Saeber. “Sern knee look better, not make it bad again walking.”
“Okay, but let’s take it real slow,” said Sern. “Just follow Kabath’s footprints.”
“Batheba say Saeber wear out, not able carry, but not true,” said Saeber. “Batheba think heavy armored rider like human, but Sern small, no armor, Saeber not even know Sern there, only got tired when ran, and when got hot.”
“If you get tired, stop, okay?” said Sern.
“Okay,” agreed Saeber.
Sern picked a palm frond up from the ground and looked at it, then collect several more together. There was some bamboo reeds growing along the edge of the pond and he used his talon dagger to cut eight lengths of the bamboo. Next he lashed the bamboo together into a frame with four supporting lengths that could bend inward. He lashed the palm fronds to the bamboo frame.
Saeber watched with curiosity as he completed what looked a bit like the roof of a thatched hut. He crawled on Saeber’s back and pulled contraption over him and the tiger and shoved the supporting ends into his belt. He had to hold the whole thing to keep it steady, but now they were able to walk in the shade as the temperatures again rose.
“That very clever,” said Saeber.
“It’s still hot, but at least the sun is off us,” said Sern.
They walked through the day and never saw Kabath, but his footprints were clear enough and they stayed on the path the large tiger had made. They walked in silence, talking took too much effort in the suffocating heat. They reached a spot where Kabath’s footprints indicated he had battled with something, and the something lay dead in the sand. The creature resembled a cross between a hyena, a donkey, and a Daiami fire beast.
Saeber sniffed at the carcass, but the meat had already gone rancid in the hot sun and she left the creature for whatever vultures preyed on rancid meat. They walked for several more hours with both of them more alert now for any signs of more of the thing Kabath had battled.
“Sern?” Saeber alerted him.
“I see it,” said Sern.
Ahead of them was a hard packed dirt road that cut across the desert in front of them, and on the road directly on their path was a Trader’s Wagon. Next to the wagon and sitting in a lawn chair under a tarp was a short skinny man wearing a flower pattern shirt, matching shorts, sandals, and a huge floppy hat made of palm fronds. Sern groaned. Why hadn’t he thought of making a hat?
The man stood when he saw them and waved. “Hoya, hoya, you must be the Master Shadow Warrior, Sern the Valiant, and his mighty Battle Cat, the Great and Powerful Saeber.”
Sern raised his brow and tipped his head to the side. Kabath was written all over whatever was going on here. “Greetings, Master Trader,” said Sern.
The Trader ran towards them and bowed several times in the process. “Oh yes, yes, yes, I see the injury your Emissary, the Benevolent Kabath, spoke to me of. Oh my, to have battled the Great Dragon of the North and lost only a leg, devoured by that foul beast. What a tale it is, Master Warrior, I am truly humbled to be in your presence.”
Sern rolled his eyes. “Do you know which way my Emissary has gone?” asked Sern.
The Trader pointed. “Yes, yes, he has gone that way ahead of you, singing praises of your valor for all to hear. Such amazing adventures you have had, and I suspect are still yet to add to the litany of great deeds. Come, come, now, I’ve prepared a place on my wagon for you.”
Sern tossed the palm frond shade on the ground and slipped down to the ground. Saeber gave him a look, Sern only shrugged and whispered. “Let’s see where this goes.”
The Trader led them around to the back of his wagon. “I’ve prepared a place for you to rest. There’s fine fruits for you, Great Sir, and only the best meats for your tiger.”
“What’s this all about?” asked Sern.
“Your Emissary has negotiated for me to take you home and umm…” the Trader paused for a moment. “He says you are good for any credit I give you in gold, yes?”
Sern nodded. “Yes, I have gold, but my farm is a very long way from here.”
“No matter, promised gold shortens any distance,” replied the Trader. “There are a few other things your Emissary purchased, for you and himself, all on your credit, of course.”
“Of course,” said Sern, wondering what Kabath had bought.
“Good, good,” said the odd little man. “Eat and rest now, your purchases are being prepared. I need to measure your leg if you don’t mind.”
The man produced a bit of twine and without hesitation knelt and started measuring Sern’s bad leg. He measured from hip to knee, then wrapped the twine around his leg in several place. “Stand up straight, Sir, I need to measure against the other leg. Oh, yes, there we go, there we go.”
Sern was too startled to protest and wondered what the man was doing. Perhaps he was measuring Sern for a nice new suit of Raven black trimmed in red. He had always wanted a nice suit like the Raven Royals had made so popular in Raven Province.
“All done, hop on up,” said the Trader.
Saeber was already in the wagon sniffing at all the meat left out for her. “Do you think I could get a hat with a black feather in it also?” asked Sern.
“Absolutely, Sir,” said the Trader.
Sern crawled up in the wagon and grabbed the plate of fruit. A hat just like the Raven King’s hat with a black feather would make his brothers so jealous. “This is a better way to travel,” said Sern.
Saeber burped, and gulped another bite of meat.